Whilst the principle of the sovereign right of each independent country to make decisions of its own choosing is considered inviolable, in practice small nations literally “ketch hell” to maintain this right. Constantly, in the context of international rivalries and “big-power politics” there are external pressures from powerful nations to bend to their will and give support to whatever policies are dictated from the western metropoles – or else.
Ironically even where the political leadership in small island states are inclined to resist, there seems to be a not insignificant part of the population which, whether by perceived allegiances, fear or simply lack of consciousness, attempt to convince local opinion that it is in our “best interests” not to oppose the dictates of these “Big brothers”.
In the post-independence era, military and financial might have been employed to enforce the will of the ruling classes of these countries as developed through the policies of those in political office. Those who dare to resist are subject to all kinds of pressures even to the extent of punishing the innocent people of countries which dare to exercise their independence.
It became so ridiculous sometimes that in one instance, a military power, Britain, waged war on China to enforce the right to trade in opium. In the latter years of the 20th century, its successor as the world’s military bully, the USA, tried to force small Caribbean countries to agree to its “right” to send military personnel to their sovereign territories to eradicate marijuana production and even to extradite offenders. This while the destructive consumption of illegal drugs on its own shores met with no such decisive treatment.
In the world of international trade and finance there are also coercive measures taken against those who do not follow the prescriptions of the financial barons and trade czars. Year after year national Parliaments are forced to amend laws or introduce new ones ostensibly to prevent money laundering and illegal financial transactions. But the root of the problem does not lie in the capitals of developing nations but in the so-called financial capitals of the world, London, New York and Geneva among them.
Worse, just as economic sanctions including punitive trade embargoes have always been used against those who see things differently from the kings of trade and finance, so too are crippling sanctions employed against countries which dare to resist. Criminally, the big powers take it upon themselves not only to employ sanctions against other countries, but they also threaten third countries with sanctions if those countries exercise their right to trade with such “sanctioned” countries.
In what is a modern version of highway robbery, they even seize the deposits of countries, Venezuela being an outstanding example, and hand them over to their puppets to be used for their own purposes.
Currently, the USA, the supposed paragon of democracy in the western hemisphere is behaving completely out of reason and international law, in relation to one of these puppets. He is Juan Guaido, outrageously recognised by the American government as “President” of Venezuela. He was not elected by the people of his country and is not even recognised by the Venezuelan opposition as Leader. Yet substantial amounts of money, belonging to the Venezuelan people and held in deposits in the USA, are being made available to Guaido and his cronies. How could this be right?
The tragicomedy is being carried even further. The USA has agreed to host the Summit of the Americas, open to the leaders of all the countries of the western hemisphere, of whatever political persuasion, in June. It is not a conference called by the government of the USA for its friends, it is an international gathering of Heads of State and Government of many different political persuasions.
But as the date draws nearer, the USA is attempting to bully nations into accepting its own list of invitees, excluding Cuba and Venezuela. Governments in CARICOM are coming under intense diplomatic pressure to go along with the isolation of these two states. In fact, so ridiculous is the American position that right after it sent emissaries to discuss oil business with the legitimate government of Venezuela, it plans to exclude that government and invite Guaido.
This position is threatening the holding of the Summit. Several large Latin American countries have made it clear that they will not attend if Cuba and Venezuela are excluded. CARICOM itself has taken a position against any such exclusion but intense diplomatic pressures and the threat of US retaliation, including on the issue of US visas, still highly prized in the region, are leading to cold feet in some capitals.
It is vital not just that Caribbean leaders join their Latin American counterparts in saying “NO” to such US blackmail and planned exclusion, but that our people themselves express full support for or governments on the matter. We have to draw the line somewhere and this is it. One does not have to agree with all the policies of every government to engage in fruitful dialogue on matters affecting the people of our hemisphere.
It is critically important that we let our voices be heard. Our government is on the front-line. Does the Opposition still support Guaido? What is its view on the exercise of CARICOM’s sovereignty? Let us not let partisan politics divide us on such significant matters.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.